Glen Arbor, MI, from the article Sand, Salt and Summer - CNN.com
I love summer. The weather, the sun, being outside with friends. My summers are a lot different now than they've ever been - in some ways better and others not so much. Working an 8 hour job, for instance, cuts into my beach time. But I've also been able to take my kids to the ocean since they were young and watch the delight they have in the waves. No matter what, it's still summer.
Tom grew up going to the Outer Banks in North Carolina every summer - though he would be quick to say, not just GOING to the OBX. But staying OCEANFRONT. House - yard - beach. Sometimes his family would share a house with another family or Tom would bring a friend. But it was very laidback - they made meals in the house (no constant restaurant meals), there was no TV and there were always card games.
Trips to the beach were different when I was growing up. We lived in Michigan and going to the beach was driving to Lake Michigan. It's not a dinky little pond either - you can't see across the lake from the beach, it's so big. The water is fresh and its a bit warmer in August - but there are definitely no ocean-size waves. I still loved it. We would swim, build sandcastles, take tubing trips on boats and go fishing. I can remember scaling fish when I was younger in my pajamas and watching my dad gut it with a long knife.
There were other lakes we could go to - but that was "going to the lake", not "the beach". The only other lake that was almost up to par with Lake Michigan was Gull Lake, about half an hour away from my house. It was where the swanky people had summer houses or belonged to the country club, so they could have their boat stored there. My grandparents belonged - several times during the summer, we would have Sunday brunch at the club (best meals growing up!) and then stay the afternoon to swim and picnic on the grass. The water in that lake was (and still is), so clear, so clean, you could bottle it and sell it next to Deer Park at the store.
Tom also grew up belonging to the local pool, so he was in the water all the time. My family did not - we were connoisseurs of the sprinkler, water balloon fights and the local creek. Everyone had a bike to ride wherever they wanted, which was usually to the little league grounds and elementary playground to play games. Pick up baseball games and home run derby - hide and seek or tag around the playground - bike races around the circular parking lot. We would ride afterward to the Dairy Queen for ice cream cones or sundaes - turn in cans for the 10 cent return and hit the penny candy aisle - have lunch at the Root Beer Stand with huge mugs of root beer and cheese dogs.
Walkway to the Beach
Outer Banks, NC
My summers are different now, being married and a mother and a (gulp) grownup. But I'm grateful that Tom and I have been able to kind of merge them with the summers of our childhoods. We go to the Outer Banks every summer - sometimes with another family and sometimes just us. This has been a wonderful new ritual for me - the ocean is so much more extreme than Lake Michigan - and I love sharing the new experiences with our kids. It even makes jaded beach goer Tom seem younger. We plan our own crab feast with food from the local seafood deli and have lunch at Kill Devil's - the Outer Banks' answer to my Root Beer stand. Greasy burgers and fries, crazy chili dogs and the best ice cream on the beach.
We try to visit Michigan as much as possible - I still have yet to take the kids to Lake Michigan. I hope they will enjoy it as much as I did when I was a kid. But since they've regularly been to the ocean since they were infants, it might not be that impressive. We belong to our local pool, just up the road from the pool Tom belonged to as a kid. Both Belle and Baz have been on the swim team and this past summer, Belle was on the dive team for the first time. There are family dinners, outdoor movie nights and campouts - family games and races on July 4th, Memorial and Labor Day. You can always count on at least one other family to barbecue with on a lazy Sunday at the pool.
Our local pool dubbed "The Country Club"
I drive my family crazy with the pictures - I have almost no pictures of my childhood anymore, so anything I can take a photo of is precious to me. Pictures of the kids playing in the waves, burying Tom in the sand, building sand castles, diving off the diving board, eating ice cream with most of it on their faces, swimming in a swim meet, jumping in the deep end hand-in-hand with their friends, sleeping peacefully after a long day playing. Pictures of Tom and his mother, Mary, playing cards, cooking our crab feast or barbecuing burgers - pictures of Tom in the water with the kids or of him boogie-boarding in the waves like a big kid, or just sleeping on a beach blanket in the sand.
These are summer experiences I always wanted to have with my parents and sister growing up. For all these different reasons, we just didn't get to have them. But I still adore summer and I cherish the memories I have of my summers growing up in Michigan. Most of all, I love the summers now and the opportunities I have for all these new memories with my family now and in the future.